A Tough Ending To My First Year As An EntrepreneurDec 29th, 2006 | By Rachit Dayal | Category: Entrepreneurship, Happiness, Peace, Personal Stories
I haven’t talked about this on my blog. In fact, I haven’t spoken about this to anyone but my closest friends.
But I’m going through a real tough time – professionally.
And I’ve wrestled with talking about it on this blog for a long long time … A part of me thinks that putting my vulnerabilities out there will hurt my professional image.
But another part says that the readers of this blog are my friends. Or at least, they think of me in a positive light … that’s why they’re reading this blog. And they’ll appreciate the fact that I talk about not just the good times, but the tough ones.
And here’s the biggest argument for discussing this on my blog – I bet someone else is going through (or will) the same kind of shit. And if even one person learns from my experiences and it helps them, it’ll be worth the loss of privacy.
So, without further ado … let’s begin this soap opera.
T Minus 4 Months: It all started when …
I decided to put myself on the line. A few months ago, when I had 2-3 months of savings left in my account to live, I decided to go for the gold. Now, as a consultant I depend on projects all the time to keep me going.
But I didn’t wanna live a month to month kinda life. That was one of my biggest goals when I started my own business. And all this while, my plan had been to write and sell an e-book that would provide me passive (well, relatively passive) income. And when I could grow that business big enough to cover my expenses, then I’ll think of bigger ventures.
But that book had been stuck for a year. I hadn’t gotten any progress all this while. What I needed was a big push to get it started, and that’s why I’d put myself on the line.
So, to recap – I had about 3 months of savings in my account and I decided it was time to take the plunge. I started writing the book gung-ho.
Every day, I’d be in office till 11 in the night … just furiously typing away. I had a stack of 15 reference books covering my desk. For every one page of content I’d write, I’d have to do cross-referencing for about 20 minutes to ensure that I had covered all the points I wanted … and that the writing wasn’t similar to anything else already printed (I don’t wanna get sued for accidental plagiarism!).
I thought I was making great progress. In just a few short weeks, I had typed out about 20,000 words of my book. That’s the most I’ve ever done!
But being my first book, I didn’t realize the amount of effort that would be involved in finishing it. After the first few weeks, I slipped into a writing rut. I would find myself sitting in front of the screen, unable to think of anything to write.
T Minus 2 Months: Halfway into my sob story …
Before I could blink, 2 months had passed. For two whole months, all I had been doing was working on my book – I hadn’t done any consulting work (which brings in the cheques), and I had conveniently ignored the joint venture projects which were supposed to bring in the big money.
And so I started panicking a little bit. To be honest, I can’t really call it panicking … this year, I’ve gotten such good control over my worries that you could throw me into a pool of sharks and it would still take me 15 minutes to freak out (Oh yeah, I can’t swim).
But I did start to get concerned. I figured – it’s time to put a stop to the writing and find some work to do. But instead of finding new work, I decided to finish up the work on some long term projects that were lying in my portfolio.
And at that point, I fell sick. Not I-have-a-cold-and-need-panadol kinda sick. More like Shit-It’s-That-Chronic-Disease-I-Have-That-Paralyzes-Me kinda sick.
If you don’t already know, I suffer from a chronic condition that strikes from time to time … and puts me out of commission for 1-2 weeks. And this was not a good time for it to arrive.
Still … I kept my cool about my bad health. I’ve learnt to deal with this condition (in fact, I managed to reduce its attacks by 90% this last year), and so I knew that there was, in fact, light at the end of the tunnel.
So, recap time … 2 months after I started putting myself on the line. I have now grown sick of writing (my book project is still only 40% done), I’m running out of money to live. And I now have to shift attention to other projects to make rent.
The Last Two Months – When god craps, a whole lotta shit falls from above ….
Now, I’m not all broke. I had planned for some contingencies – I was supposed to receive a rather large payment for some work I had done for a client. It was ongoing work, and I had been doing all that was required from my side to keep the project going.
That client refused to pay me.
They had some silly logic, about them not having put the best effort in … so the results weren’t up to the mark. What shit! I provided a service which we decided in the beginning of the engagement, and I ought to get paid for it. At that point, I was not in a position to be gracious and write that invoice off – I had depended on it to pay the bills! In fact, as I’m writing this … my anger from that incident is welling back up.
But after arguing with them for several hours, I decided it wasn’t worth the time to hire a lawyer and go after them. But I would – as my idol Perry Marshall would say – “Fire Your Worst Customers”. So, I gave them a half an hour speech about how they would have this on their conscience and they’re not allowed to be my customers ever again. I made them feel really guilty for not keeping up to their part of the deal, and not following the terms of the contract. And I took away some very important lessons about planning contingencies.
Two other long-term projects I had taken on … required me to work right now. But I would get paid only early next year. Because I expected to have enough money to pay my bills, I had forgone cash payment in these deals … for a percentage of sales (I thought I was making a smart choice!).
My book still has so much work left. Despite the 300+ hours I’ve already put in, another 200 are required.
I had discussions for a few consulting gigs in the pipeline … but everyone disappeared in mid Jan for the holidays, and I’m left in a lurch.
So, I was now working on these two projects – with no hope of getting money out of them, and money running out from my savings.
And working day and night to get these done … I had caught a bout of insomnia. I couldn’t fall asleep before 6AM … and I couldn’t wake up before 2PM. The gloomy climate, cool wind and constant rain didn’t help in getting me out of bed.
So, today … at 5 in the morning I’m writing this message because I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because I got too many projects in my to-do list, and related anxieties on my mind. And as the new year comes closer, there are still many many unknowns about whether I can survive another two months without taking on a project.
Are you crying for me yet?
Life as an entrepreneur is bloody hard. When I was an employee … I would work hard a few months … bum off a few months … and still get paid all those months.
Now, there’s nothing to fall back on. My friends and mom urge me to take on a job … It’s hard to explain to them, that the shit I’m going through is a rite of passage. If I quit now, then I’ll have to go through it another day … when I’m older and have more responsibilities.
Uncertainty is now the rule … rather than the exception … and I haven’t yet gotten used to it.
“So, why don’t I give up and get a regular job? What still keeps me going?”
Well, I’m glad you asked Johnny! I was reading one of Alvin’s posts on Life Coaches Blog … and he talked about how to get through tough times.
There are many strategies I use every single day … to keep up my mood and keep going towards my goal. And even though I painted a nice long sob story for you up there, to be honest, I’m really quite happy most of the day.
Yes, there are many many uncertainties in my life. Things didn’t go as planned. But I’ve learned that happiness is a choice. And even in seemingly tough situations, you and I can choose to laugh, and be merry.
Of course, it’s not an easy thing to learn. The whole process of moving towards nirvana is a constant process – which I’m still going through. But there are some things that we can tell ourselves, little nuggets of wisdom that help me get closer every day.
And the whole reason why I shared my story here … is that if anyone out there has similar troubles happen in their life, they can browse through my list of resources I use in tough times … and maybe it will help them too.
So, here are the 7 things I tell myself that keep me going in tough times:
- Shit happens. It’s a certainty in business and life. Especially in business. It really sucks and you can’t help but feel sorry for yourself. But after a while, you have no choice but to get up and keep going – it’s a better option than sitting in the hole and crying.
- Have faith in yourself. You’ve always been successful in other areas of your life. Heck – you chose to take on a tough path of starting a business! That itself makes you more successful than everyone else!
- Health. Wealth. Love. I’m doing well in 2 out of three. My health is doing well, I get regular exercise and food. My love life’s looking up and I’m very close to my friends and family. 1 out of 3 aint’ bad at all. I thank the heavens (and my own decisions) for having good stuff in my life.
- What’s the worst that could happen. Seriously. In the worst case, I’ll borrow some money from dad and find a job. That’s all … with my brains and charm, it won’t take me more than a month to find a good job.
- You’ve made the right decisions. You chose to write a book instead of a typical project. You chose long-term JV projects over short-term schemes. You stuck to your guns and didn’t accept tempting job offers. Making decisions was easy. Now, I gotto stick by them.
- You’re not a quitter. Gates, Jobs, Buffet, Kennedy … these guys didn’t quit on their projects. They stayed with them until the flowers bloomed and they got the enjoy the fruits of their gardening.
- It’s gonna be a great story. When you get out of this rut, you can tell it to other people … and maybe , just maybe … it will help someone else get through a tough time in their life.
I’d like to think that if we all collectively wish good things for our friends, the universe will find a way to make the good stuff happen. And I hope that after reading this story, you take a second to wish me and every other reader of this blog … and send us all your good energy for 2007.
I know I’m gonna be doing the same for you